New Brunswick is well known for its farming industry. It has the value chain to support growing things and a highly skilled workforce with expertise that has supported the industry for generations. Everything is here for innovative agritech companies to thrive, companies like Fredericton’s Picketa Systems.
Picketa has created a plant tissue scanning technology platform that helps growers monitor their crop nutrition, better manage their resources, and optimize their yields. The company recently closed a $300,000 pre-seed investment round — led by East Valley Ventures and Edmonton’s Startup TNT — which will allow it to maintain its current headcount and prepare for a full launch of its agritech solution in 2023.
Solving a Problem for Growers
Co-founders Xavier Hébert-Couturier, Maxime Dumont, Dominic Levesque, and Zachary Anderson were gathered at the Levesque family’s farm in Grand Falls looking for a project idea when inspiration struck.
“We were on a farm during harvest season, so an agritech solution is where we landed. We realized there was a significant bottleneck in the industry,” says Dumont, the company’s COO. “Analysis of plant tissue is inefficient, often taking several days to receive results back from a lab far away. Our solution lets growers get quick on-site real-time results. They can then make decisions faster, use fertilizer much more efficiently, and ultimately get better yields.”
Validation Came Quickly
Beginning in 2020 as a project for the University of New Brunswick’s (UNB) Technology Management & Entrepreneurship (TME) Program, Picketa quickly received first prize in UNB’s 2021 Apex Business Plan Competition.
Dumont says Apex was a true catalyst for Picketa Systems’ launch. “I encourage students with an idea to enroll in the Apex competition. We had no idea what would come of it, but it has turned out tremendously well for us. It’s a great way to validate your idea and your company.” Further validation came from Potatoes NB, which identified the problem Picketa was seeking to solve as a legitimate pain point for the industry.
New Brunswick Supports Innovative Startups
Picketa has received support from every corner of the province thus far. Dumont says the Energia Ventures Accelerator in Fredericton was another key player. “Joe Allen and the Energia team really helped shape our vision for the company, it’s an excellent program.”
Crucially, Picketa’s early supporters include growers, with nine Northwest New Brunswick potato farms partnering with the company in the summer of 2021 to collect data needed for the product launch. This summer, the collaboration continues with the pre-commercial launch of the Picketa solution on farms and agri-businesses in Saint-André, Grand Falls, Florenceville, Hartland, and PEI, reaching over 100 potato growers.
Dumont says early support also came from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) and its investment of $50,000, Planet Hatch, which provided a wealth of resources including meeting space, and the New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) which helped with proposal writing, access to grants, and more.
Export Markets Await
With a new infusion of cash and plans in place for a full launch, Picketa Systems is already looking beyond Atlantic Canada. “ONB has been a great partner in terms of helping us prepare for exporting our solution to the rest of Canada and beyond,” says Dumont. “There’s a lot of planning that goes into reaching valuable markets like Alberta, Manitoba, and Idaho. We’ll be looking for that market development support as we plan for not only North American expansion but potential work in the southern hemisphere. Growing seasons are short in Canada, so markets like that will prove valuable moving forward. We’re changing the game and can’t wait to hopefully tackle this problem for growers around the world.”
Learn more at Picketa.com.
New Brunswick recognizes that agritech is critical to our ability to modernize our agricultural sector, one of our largest traditional industries. Learn more here.
Images via Picketa Systems